Esprit de Corps by Victor J. Banis, Josh Lanyon, Samantha Kane, and George Seaton

MLR Press

Gay Anthology

ISBN:  978-1-934531-03-7

Reviewed by Cassie

 

   

 

“Out of the Blue” by Josh Lanyon

World War I flying ace Captain “Bat” Bryant is furious enough to lash out when a sneaky mechanic attempts to blackmail him following his lover’s death in combat.  Unfortunately, his angry reaction leaves his would-be blackmailer dead.  American pilot “Cowboy” Cooper witnesses the incident and says he’ll help Bat out—for a price.  Unable to think of anything else to do, Bat is forced to agree to Cowboy’s scheme. 

“Out of the Blue” was without a doubt my favorite story in Esprit De Corps.  Josh Lanyon has a knack for writing heroes that aren’t quite what I expect, yet I end up liking them.  That’s especially true of Cowboy, who seems so self-interested but turns out to be something more than he seems.  The historical atmosphere is well done, and the aerial battle scenes are exciting.  If you like gay historical stories, you will like “Out of the Blue.”  Guaranteed.

 

“Islands” by Samantha Kane

Frenchman René Dubois loves his island home, Île Dorée, and its people.  He’s determined to protect them no matter what.  Then Lieutenant Commander Gabriel Conlan of the United States Navy Seabees arrives, wanting to build an Allied hospital and airfield on the island.  René doesn’t really want to agree, but he does want Gabe, and Gabe feels the same way.  Will they be able to be together, or will the war destroy everything they hope to build together?

“Islands” is a quick, hot story.  Gabe and René come together almost immediately, but there’s no magic wand solution for their issues: Gabe’s career, the times they live in, and the war.  While the ending felt a bit too happy given the times, I liked “Islands” quite a bit.     

 

“Coming Home” by Victor J. Banis

Mike lives in San Diego during the Sixties, and his favorite weekend pastime is picking up Marines from nearby Camp Pendleton.  In his mind, variety is the spice of life, and one night stands are great.  Then he picks up Doug, a Marine who’s different from the others somehow. 

“Coming Home” is a bit difficult to describe.  The narrator, Mike, isn’t the type of character I usually like.  He’s all about sex and variety, which is fine but not usually not so good for a romance.  The story is quick, and very graphic.  Some readers might not care for the language or descriptions of sex.  At one point, Victor J. Banis throws a major curveball that seems to derail the whole story.  The sweet, hopeful ending served to cheer me up a bit, however, despite the dark turn. 

 

“Big Diehl” by George Seaton

After graduation, Big Diehl (who goes by Diehl for obvious reasons) is determined to get away from his hometown, and his father.  He drives to Casper and enlists in the Army.  He also meets some kind lesbians at a bar, who take him in and give him work until he’s called for boot camp.  Will the Army give Diehl what he needs?

“Big Diehl” isn’t really a romance.  If I’d been reading a gay historical anthology rather than a romance anthology, I wouldn’t have been bothered by this.  Unfortunately, the story ends up seeming out of place.  That said, “Big Diehl” is an interesting story of finding yourself and coming to terms with the past.  Diehl’s a country boy at heart, with simple tastes and simple needs, but he knows if he stays in his hometown his life will go nowhere.  He meets several potential love interests in the story, but it’s never quite right.  While I was disappointed with the ambiguous ending and lack of romance, “Big Diehl” isn’t a bad story.  I just felt it belonged in another anthology rather than this one.

 

On the whole, Esprit de Corps is a varied anthology featuring servicemen from World War I all the way to the present day.  Readers who like military stories will find a lot to like here.  Not all the stories were my cup of tea, but I think there’s something for just about everyone in Esprit de Corps. 

     

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